Should I tag along for a trip to Long Beach?
March 1, 2014 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Hubby is going to a conference March 30th - April 3rd at the Westin Long Beach. Should I tag along? We'd just have to pay for my airfare and petsitting, so maybe $500 which is definitely affordable for us. It seems like a good opportunity to get some west coast time (we live in Philly), but any place with Beach in the name sounds good right now...I'm afraid this cold, snowy winter will never end! Is there enough to do while Mr. jshort is at the conference all day? If I go, what should I do? Where should I/we eat? What will the weather be like?

Things I like:
- Basically anything outdoors. Beach, water sports (I assume the Pacific will be too cold, though), hiking (moderately strenuous).
- Eating/drinking/hanging out at a cool coffee shop or bar. I prefer laid-back places, not the "see and be seen" type of place.
- Enjoying the sunshine without a parka and snow boots.
I'm willing to venture out of Long Beach during the day if there's something I shouldn't miss while I'm in LA area. I lived in San Diego, which I loved, but I probably wouldn't venture down there this trip.

Things I'm not that into/not looking for on this trip: shopping, museums (unless it's really unique and/or the weather isn't nice), other indoor activities. I'm not that interested in going places in hopes of running into celebrities or driving around looking at famous places from movies.

I'll be alone during the day, so I want to stick with places I'll feel relatively safe. But we live in the city, so I don't get sketched out too easily.

I have read these, but they are pretty old, and this, which is recent but kid-focused.
posted by jshort to Travel & Transportation around Long Beach, CA (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Long Beach is more of an industrial port than vacation spot, but it has it's charms. There's no celebrities. There's the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, the USS Iowa, the Japanese Garden, Shoreline Village and if you rent a car, you can drive down the coast. It should be in the 70s-80s by April.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:52 AM on March 1, 2014

I think the sun would be lovely for you. There's a really nice flat running path that goes for a long way at the top of the beach, and sitting at the Yard House watching the water and working your way through one giant beer after the next would also be a pleasant way to spend half a day.
posted by ftm at 8:55 AM on March 1, 2014

I used to live in Long Beach and disagree that it's mostly an industrial port city -- it has changed a lot in the past 10 years. Check out Portfolio coffee house near "retro row" (bunch of retro/vintage stores that are fun to browse even if you're not into shopping).

There are fun bars and restaurants all over downtown Long Beach!

Walk -- or rent a bike and ride -- along the paved beach paths. Go down to the Marina and take a boat tour around the harbor or a whale-watching tour. They're fun!

The Westin Long Beach is about a block away from a Blue Line Metro stop, so you wouldn't be limited to Long Beach.

Long Beach isn't really close to any hiking.

The weather will probably be in the 60s-70s and sunny. The Pacific will be far too cold for any water activities without a pretty decent wetsuit.
posted by erst at 8:56 AM on March 1, 2014

I still live in Long Beach and while it is definitely a working harbor town (you'll see plenty of cranes and cargo ships from the Westin and you don't want to swim in the water here, but you can still stroll the beach), there's plenty here for an entertaining, well-fed weekend.

Downtown Food:

The Federal (gastro pub in old converted bank -- beautiful space)

James Republic Sleek. Fancy cocktails. Delicious.

Supermex (original DT Long Beach location). Cheap SoCal Mexican

And lots to choose from on Pine Avenue:

555 is a fancy pricey classic steak house.

L'Opera is a fancy pricey Italian place.

Down in the old Pike you'll find the usual collection of chain eateries.

Across the marina however, in the Hotel Maya, is an upscale Mexican spot (Fuego) with a great outdoor seating area overlooking the harbor, the Queen Mary. Good Margaritas.

In addition to Portofolio coffee house mentioned above (back in the day, the fellas who founded Portfolio used to be regulars at the long defunct Long Beach coffee house that employed me -- kind of amazing they've been at it for so long) a little closer to you is Lord Windsor (on 3rd, just east of Downtown).

Another coffee house option is the Library on Broadway and Redondo. Kind of a hike from Downtown, however. That's my old neighborhood.

Further east is Belmont Shore, which is a strolling, shopping, dining district with all sorts of options. And also my current neighborhood. Transit to the shore from Downtown is easy (Passport, or Lines 121, or 131). In fact, transit all around Long Beach is easy.

Gotta go for my morning run (on the ped/bike path on the beach); I'll be back later with some nonfood suggestions.
posted by notyou at 9:35 AM on March 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you go to Belmont Shore I would recommend Belmont Brewing Company.
posted by at 9:39 AM on March 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Long time Long Beach resident. Here's my random thoughts:
1. If you want to hike and have a car, driving over to Palos Verdes and doing some hikes along the cliffs there is probably the closest scenic hike.
2. Also over that way is the Cabrillo Beach tide pools.
3. I agree with erst that Whale Watching can be a lot of fun. You'll still be in good time for seeing gray whales.
4. Kayak rental.
5. Free Downtown Bus
6. Fine dining restaurants on Pine Ave near your hotel; more relaxed places to eat in Belmont Shore on 2nd street. Our favorites are Simzy's for pub food, and Open Sesame for Lebanese. Both of those have outdoor dining.
7. The weather is almost always good (too good we need more rain); and is sometimes great (low 80s) during that time.
8. Long Beach is surrounded by breakwater for the port, so no waves at our beaches.
9. No risk of running into celebrities. Long Beach is low class for a beach city, so wouldn't compete with the likes of Newport Beach or Manhattan Beach.
10. Long Beach is doing a lot to be bike friendly.
posted by Edward L at 9:40 AM on March 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

You're crazy if you don't go. And please do visit the Aquarium and go whale watching!!

You can skip the Queen Mary, tho. Totally overrated.
posted by jbenben at 10:09 AM on March 1, 2014

You could take the ferry from Long Beach harbor to Catalina island for hiking one day.
posted by cecic at 10:09 AM on March 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Aw! Shout out to everyone from the LBC! (although I was born and raised in North Long Beach, so, really, I'm the one who's stuck out past Signal Hill and too damn close to Lakewood)

I have such fond memories of Cabrillo Beach Museum (although it's now called Cabrillo Marine Aquarium). It's a lovely little sealife museum, and an interesting contrast to the big huge Aquarium of the Pacific (which is also a lot of fun). Also in San Pedro (and you want to pronounce it Pedro like Pee-dro, not Pey-dro, because then people won't look at you funny), there's the Korean Bell of Friendship and Point Fermin Park for some great views, and Wayfarers Chapel, which is a gorgeous piece of Frank Lloyd Wright in a lovely little package.

The Queen Mary is worth seeing at least once, especially since now they do ghost tours. The ghost stories are the best part of the ship, honestly. And you'll get to see that gorgeous first class swimming pool.

Catalina Island is also a fantastic thing to do, just to visit Avalon and enjoy it.

If you wanna check out the bigger area, you can also take the Metro Rail Blue Line to the Metro Rail Red Line and hit Hollywood or Downtown. I used to take the Metro Rail to Westlake all the time one summer, and even just looking out over the various bits of the city was a lot of fun.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:17 PM on March 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Long Beach would be great. It's central to lots of fun stuff to do!

I'll agree that taking the ferry to Catalina is usually a very nice day trip. You can take a ride out to Avalon, have lunch, do some walking and sightseeing, rent a golf cart to cruise around the island, or even play mini golf at one of my favorite courses. You'll get great views, nice exercise, and get a nice walk (you can make the trek up the hill to the Wrigley Botanical Garden or do plenty of other hiking up into the hills around the town).

The ferry ride is about an hour each way and it's about $75 round trip if I remember right, but the nice part is that I think you will be walking distance from a ferry terminal... maybe about a quarter mile away from the Westin. So you won't even have to worry about parking or anything like that.

In addition to all of the other great suggestions you've gotten for places to eat in Long Beach, you might be interested in making the 10-15 minute drive over to Torrance and Gardena for a lunch or a dinner. There are absolutely tons of excellent Japanese, Korean, and Hawaiian restaurants in this area, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

For example, this yakitori house is a blast. It's a very energetic and fun place to eat, and the food is delicious. I can also vouch for this ramen stand, which is inside a cool shopping center with an excellent Japanese supermarket.

Hope you enjoy the trip!
posted by Old Man McKay at 1:07 PM on March 1, 2014

I agree that you should go and have fun, but if I were you I would have a frank discussion with my husband and find out whether he is expected to attend any after-hours work things, and if so, is it like every night or once/twice. If he is expected, you might want to lower your expectations about joining him on certain nights so he can attend, and/or find out if spouses would be welcomed. If it's going to be non-stop work stuff from dawn to midnight every night, I would think about whether I was ok with a mostly solo sun vacation (I would be!!! as long as I knew in advance), and I would not expect this to be a romantic getaway weekend.
posted by CathyG at 5:21 PM on March 1, 2014

You'll be walking/staggering distance from Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, just awarded Best Mid-Sized Brewpub in the US by the Great American Beer Festival. Get some killer pulled pork and drink some amazing brews, both from other brewers and from the brewery on-premises.
posted by Punkey at 2:58 AM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

You guys sold me! I'm going! Thanks for all the excellent suggestions.
posted by jshort at 4:39 AM on March 2, 2014

Also you might like Ports O Call. It's a huge melting pot hangout. You can pick out a fish and they cook it to order, absolutely delicious. Tons of local families go there for a weekend afternoon celebration. The fish shop ordering takes a little figuring out, but when you walk in you see all these families eating fish/shrimp/etc out of big cardboard box lids, with huge loaves of freshly baked bread and grilled veggies. Just ask someone where to find the fish and get it cooked.

You can go on charter dive trips out of Long Beach as well -- even if you don't dive, you might like snorkeling. (Wetsuit is key). Or you can do that in Catalina as well -- strongly support that suggestion as an excellent use of a day.

Rent a car and you're within an hour of any activity LA has to offer (which is everything).

I've never been to the Queen Mary, but the Russian submarine is pretty cool, and the Aquarium is amazing. I like the aquarium because it has exhibits where you can pet various critters.
posted by bluesky78987 at 8:29 AM on March 2, 2014

If the Blackbird Cafe is still there, I had a memorably awesome eggs Benedict there on a SoCal road trip a couple of years back, with chorizo on sopes. Yum.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:54 PM on March 4, 2014

Blackbird Cafe is still there and is delicious! Not particularly close to downtown but by far my favorite breakfast place.
posted by Arbac at 11:38 AM on March 5, 2014

I'm back! I didn't have time to check out all the recommendations in two days, but here were my favorites.

Coffee - Lord Windsor was one of the best coffees I've ever had. They are artists. Porfolio was ok, but nothing special and the people were kind of aloof. Not worth the trek and I wished I stuck with LW.

Food - We had an excellent meal at L'Opera. Sat at the bar and talked to the owner. I ate lunch at The Federal, which was also very good. Also bought two bottles of wine to bring to dinner at the aunt's house from a very helpful guy at District Wine and stopped in James Republic for an aforementioned fancy cocktail (Eve's Lemonade - very refreshing!).

Activities - The Catalina Island recommendation was awesome - I went for the day on Monday, hiked about 8 miles, ate lunch (delicious lobster roll at the Lobster Trap), and walked around a bit before catching the ferry home (I splurged for the Commodore's club). I would have spent the other day in San Pedro/Cabrillo Beach Museum/Ports O Call, but I was too exhausted.

Transportation - the buses were easy (Google helped), so I didn't need a taxi. I also hoofed it a lot and never felt threatened or uncomfortable.

I'm very glad I went and wished I had a couple more days to see more. Maybe next time...
posted by jshort at 6:26 PM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

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